The Biden administration has big plans for his Earth Day 2024 celebration. Unfortunately, true conservation, which entails the wise use of natural resources, doesn’t seem to be on the agenda for Alaska. Instead, this Earth Day, large swaths of the state will be closed off to any natural resource development.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Friday finalized a rule that will shut about half of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A) to any permitting for development. The final rule was anticipated to be more strict than the proposed rule, which would have blocked about 40% of the reserve from development.

Bloomberg reports, “The proposal would create a formal program for expanding protected areas at least once every five years — while making it difficult to undo those designations. And it would raise the bar for future development elsewhere in the reserve.”

Bloomberg also notes that the Department of the Interior said “the regulation wouldn’t affect existing leases.” However, the text of the proposed rule would grant broad authority to limit, restrict, or prohibit the use of NPR-A lands “regardless of any existing authorization.”

This isn’t the first time the Biden administration has targeted Alaska with actions hostile to true conservation and U.S. energy security. In January 2021, Mr. Biden paused oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), an area of northern Alaska about the size of South Carolina. Late last year, he formally revoked existing leases in ANWR that were granted to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a public state corporation. In January 2023, the Biden administration also reinstated the Roadless Rule in the Tongass National Forest, which squelches almost all logging and road-building in the Southeast Alaska temperate rainforest. 

A final decision on Alaska’s Ambler Access Project was also made in the flurry of regulatory actions preceding Earth Day. The White House selected “no action,” which will not allow for a 211-mile private industrial road in Alaska’s Northwest Arctic Borough. The Ambler Access Project received full federal approvals four years ago and permit access was guaranteed in a 1980 law. The most promising prospective mine in the area was expected to produce 149 million pounds of copper, 173 million pounds of zinc, and 26 million pounds of lead annually — all minerals useful and necessary for President Biden’s aspirational “clean-energy” transition.

“The Ambler Road decision is premature, as real conversations among stakeholders in the region are ongoing. Alaska has a wealth of natural resources that can be responsibly developed to help boost domestic manufacturing and innovation—in the end, it should be up to Alaskans to decide what they want developed in their regions,” said Representative Peltola. 

Approving the Willow Oil Project is perhaps the only environmental action the Biden administration has taken that trusts Alaskans to steward their own resources (albeit grudgingly, in a scaled-down alternative).

President Biden has spent every moment since he approved the Willow project attempting to win back the voters he incensed, and Earth Day 2024 is the culmination of his efforts ahead of November. 

The Biden administration must finalize its rulemaking before the end of May when the Congressional Review Act comes into force. Alaska’s congressional delegation wrote in The Hill that “officials from the Department of the Interior also ignored the voices of Alaska Natives, publicly acknowledged they are rushing it to avoid congressional nullification, and deliberately downplayed its economic impacts to avoid scrutiny from other agencies.”

Alaskans know that caring for the environment and developing the state’s natural resources are not mutually exclusive; however, Biden’s Earth Day regulatory agenda leaves no room for a conservationist ethos. 

To the Biden administration, the only acceptable answer is a no-use preservationist policy that treats Alaska like a wildlife preserve—with convenient disregard for the people who depend upon these resources. Let’s hope that Congress or the Supreme Court have better sense than BLM’s bureaucrats.